Thursday, 15 September 2016

Spring Flora

False Sarsaparilla Hardenbergia violacea 

It has been a wet Spring in Canberra this year, following a wet winter, so there is lots of growth sprouting in the bush. All the plants need now is a bit of sunshine and warmth to bring out the flowers. Although the fruit has blossomed well, I fear that there have been too few insects out and about to pollinate them. I'll know in a week or so, and the local wild flowers might be having the same problem.

Alpine Grevillea Grevillea australis

Nature is full of surprises though and when I was out for a walk through the forest on Black Mountain the other day I was amazed at how many flowers were out in bloom. Purple tufts of False Sarsaparilla were creeping over the ground and up through shrubs, the local native grevillea, the Alpine Grevillea, was showing as well as such a shy flower can show, and the moist air was rich with the scent of wattle - several species were in flower. While all around there were tiny single-flowered orchid stems. Their subtle tones hidden, then shown, by shadows and speckles of light dropping through the leafy canopy.

Box-leaf Wattle Acacia boxifolia

The main insects I saw were Painted Lady and Cabbage White butterflies. Although of course to our human eyes, those would have been the obvious ones. I did see some flies dotting about and several caterpillars on leaves. A few were stretching and folding themselves across the paths after a rain shower. I hope there were more.

Dusky Fingers Caladenia fuscata - white form - about 10 cm tall
(Highly sensitive, very rare/threatened)

Yet, once again, despite all the abundant purples, reds and yellows, filling the woodland with a coloured haze, it was the teeny inconspicuous orchids that stole the show. Why are we attracted to orchids so much? Well, for me, it is the way such small, highly specialised plants can grow in such nutrient-poor soils. They were literally shooting straight out from the leaf and bark litter on the forest floor, with nothing but a poor stony soil beneath.

Dusky Fingers Caladenia fuscata - pink form

These finger orchids are so short that we have to get down on our hands and knees, or lower to see the detail of their flower forms. Yet, they are probably holding their flowers at a perfect height to catch the attention of passing flies or whatever insect they rely on for pollination. For, as witnessed, most flies that I did see were hovering and wandering through the forest at just such a height as they passed through the low shrub layer. There was probably another set of insects flying through the canopy, where the next layer of greenery grew.

Blue Fingers Cyanicula caerulea 
(Highly sensitive, very rare/threatened)

It's good to take a ground level look at the world now and then. To see it as others do.

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